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Batman: Hush (comic)

Jeph Loeb’s story has everything that you like about Batman. If you like Batman, you’ll like Hush. A mysterious villain (who calls himself Hush) is playing a game with Batman, a game of sabotage and revenge. Hush manipulates and uses some of Batman’s greatest enemies to try to destroy Batman once and for all. Batman has to figure out who is trying to kill him and why before he ends up dead. And he doesn’t wanna die because he just started hooking up with Catwoman and she’s kind of hot.

So someone is trying to kill Batman, someone who knows his secret identity, his strengths, his weaknesses, how he thinks. Someone who wants him to suffer. Someone from his past. But Batman’s pissed off a lot of people, so there are a lot of suspects. One of the main themes of the book is family. Bruce Wayne is an orphan, but he still has a family. Catwoman points out that he has a lot of strings for a loner. He has attachments to Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, Huntress, Jim Gordon… Bruce Wayne has a lot of attachments too: Alfred, Leslie Thompkins, Thomas Elliot (his best friend since childhood). He is far from alone.

Jeph Loeb knows how to tell a good story. There are a lot of familiar characters, a semi-original plot, and more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Jim Lee’s sketches are gritty, provocative, and larger than life, and Scott Williams brings them to life with his inkwork. This is a good solid Batman comic, satisfying and rich.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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DC vs. Marvel (comic)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the greatest, most powerful heroes and villains from the DC and Marvel Universes met? How awesome would that be? Well, it already happened in 1996, so you missed out. But you can relive the past and pick up DC vs. Marvel and see the two worlds collide.

There is actually a pretty coherent storyline. Writers Ron Marz and Peter David are able brings some of the biggest characters from two rival companies together in a comprehensive way. So back in the day, these two brothers/entities were controlling their own separate universes, until they learned of each other’s existence. One brother is the DC Universe, and the other represents the Marvel Universe. They decide to have a battle between their top superheroes to determine which universe will be destroyed.

Each separate universe starts to be aware that something weird is happening when heroes and villains start vanishing in a flash of light, and new, different masks start showing up. A young man named Axel Asher finds himself inexplicably drawn to an alley where a crazy homeless guy is trying desperately to keep an inter-dimensional gateway contained in a cardboard box. Axel is the Access, and he just might be the key to solving the crisis if he ever accepts his destiny.

6 Marvel characters are chosen to fight 6 DC characters in one-on-one battles to determine the mightier universe. There are some really obvious fights between similarly powered characters like Aquaman vs. Namor, Wolverine vs. Lobo, and Flash vs. Quicksilver. There are also weird, random fights like Robin vs. Jubilee and Superboy vs. Spider-man. Elektra fights Catwoman, the Green Lantern and Silver Surfer duke it out in space, Wonder Woman somehow loses to Storm, Batman and Captain America are pretty evenly matched, and Superman barely beats the Hulk into submission.

Instead of one universe getting destroyed, the Spectre and the Living Tribunal are able to temporarily merge the two universes together. This buys them some time, and has the awesome bonus of creating hybrid superheroes like Dark Claw (a mixture of Batman and Wolverine) and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America’s lovechild).

Access finally gets his shit together and it able to separate the merged universe back to the two separate ones. He gets a little assistance from Batman and Captain America to end the Space Brothers’ hissy fit. And now the two universes can co-exist and life is good.

Yeah, there’s a lot of nonsense about two brother universes using magic humans to end a cosmic dispute, but once you get past that you can appreciate the story. What if the superhero you depended on was powerless to stop the end of the world? What if that superhero vanished and was replaced by a stranger in tights? What if you are a superhero and you can’t simply punch your way to victory?

The art is awesome. The panels spill over into each other, they overlap, it feels very fluid. Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini’s drawings are bold and powerful. And it’s pretty cool to see the Hulk and Superman exchanging blows in the desert.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it doesn’t slow down the momentum of the story. If you like DC, it’s worth checking out. If you like Marvel, it’s worth checking out. If you like comics, then you should have read this already. You’re slacking.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Batman: Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reunite for the sequel to Batman: The Long Halloween. Both The Long Halloween and Dark Victory take place in the same canon as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Gotham City is in the midst of a transition from crime families to masked freaks taking over the criminal underworld. To make matters worse, a new serial killer is in town, and he’s targeting cops. If that wasn’t enough, Bruce Wayne takes in a young orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson.

The story picks up a few months after the events of The Long Halloween. There’s a new district attorney called Janice Porter, Sofia Gigante has taken over the Falcone Crime Family, Batman and James Gordon are still distraught over the whole Harvey Dent-turning-into-Two-Face incident, and a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum only makes matters worse. Not only does Batman have to deal with the warring crime families, but there’s a whole bunch of villainous freaks that he has to contend with too.

Alberto Falcone a.k.a. the Holiday killer is released and allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in house arrest under the supervision of his brother, Mario. Alberto starts to hear the voice of his dead father telling him to return to his murderous ways and become Holiday again.

Shortly after Alberto’s release, Gotham City cops start being killed on a holiday each month. The killer leaves behind a hangman riddle on it, and the riddle is always on a document associated with Harvey Dent.

Naturally there are two main suspects as to who the Hangman killer is. It is either Harvey Dent, because everything is related to him, or it could be Alberto Falcone, because all the murders are happening on holidays. Or it could be someone else entirely. Just saying.

The personal lives of the main characters are shattered. Bruce Wayne/Batman is more isolated and alone than ever before. James Gordon has been promoted to Commissioner but at the expense of his marriage. Both men miss their friend Harvey Dent and still feel betrayed by him.

While dealing with a mafia war and a bunch of freaks, Bruce still finds time to go to the circus. But it’s not a fun night because a gangster ends up killing two trapeze artists to send a message to the circus owner; in the process Dick Grayson ends up orphaned. Bruce Wayne takes him in because he feels responsible, obligated, inclined, whatever, to take care of this young kid and teach him to hate the world and fight crime in an elaborate costume.

This comic feels like a continuation of The Long Halloween in a lot of ways. The plot is very similar. A guy is killing people on holidays and Batman has to find out who, and at the same time he has to deal with gangsters and mobsters and villainous freaks. The twist is that this time, the killer is killing cops and not mobsters. And then they tacked on a Robin origin story to spice things up.

Batman has to decide which side Catwoman is on and if she’s trustworthy again. He has to fight the Joker again. He has issues with Two-Face again.  The Scarecrow shows up. And Solomon Grundy. And the Calendar Man. And the Riddler. And a few more. It’s easy to mix up plot points between The Long Halloween and this story. It doesn’t feel as much like a continuation as much as a rehash. It’s good, but it’s not as good and nowhere as original. It’s worth reading. It’s not the best Batman story, but it’s one of the better ones.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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